In the News
Saying Goodbye to Jett Travolta
Why one mother doesn’t blame his parents
-April Daniels Hussar
Today John Travolta and Kelly Preston will say goodbye to their 16-year-old son, Jett, in a private memorial service. This is surely a nightmare come true for these heartbroken parents.
Jett died this past weekend while on vacation with his family in the Bahamas. Reports indicate the cause of death was a seizure – not, as originally thought, head trauma (Jett struck his head twice falling to the floor of his bathroom). His father John tried to revive him, to no avail.
The Daily Telegraph reports: According to the Travolta family, Jett suffered from regular seizures (around one a week) and had been diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome, a rare childhood condition with some life-threatening symptoms but rarely fatal.
Jett’s death has sparked much debate and controversy. John Travolta and his wife are, famously, Scientologists, and some say they refused the proper treatment for their son. Still other sources claim Jett was in fact autistic, and again was not treated properly. In fact, TMZ.com reports Travolta’s lawyers, Michael Ossi and Michael McDermott, told them that Jett took an anti-seizure drug called Depakote and it was only stopped on medical advice.
All of this speculation must only add to the pain being felt by Jett’s family.
We spoke with one of our contributors, Kim Stagliano, who is the mother of three autistic girls, to find out her thoughts on this tragedy.
Here’s what she had to say about her own experience as the mother of a child suffering from seizures:
These [anti-epileptic] drugs carry a risk of liver damage and monthly blood tests are required. Many times, the drugs do not stop the seizures. At that point, the parent has to choose between the side effects of the drug and the efficacy in terms of stopping seizures.
I have experienced this first hand. My oldest daughter Mia (who has autism) developed a serious seizure disorder at age six. She had grand mal seizures (full convulsions). We tried three medications, none of which stopped a single seizure. The side effect of the drugs was that she lost what little speech she had, she became clumsier and was listless and unresponsive. We worked with her neurologist to take her off the drugs. We had a rectal syringe containing Valium (Diastat) for use in case of a prolonged seizure. We never went back to meds. Through careful naturopathic methods, we got her seizure disorder under control. She has been seizure free for over four years.
As far as the Travoltas declaring their son’s condition as autism or not, many families choose to keep this information private. Perhaps more so when Jett was a small child over a decade ago.
Ultimately all any parent can do is makes the decisions she believes to be best for her child. There is so much conflicting information out there – from vaccinations to autism to diet – it’s hard enough to make decisions when our children are well. I can only imagine the difficulty of trying to care for a special-needs child, of wanting to be an advocate, wanting always to do the right thing and not just accept whatever medical professionals have pronounced. It seems in this Internet age there’s always a second opinion, always more research that can be done, always another way. Finding the right way isn’t easy.
Our thoughts are with John and Kelly today – and with all loving parents struggling to make those right decisions for their children, who are, in the end, everything.